I don’t know if my mom or dad had a will – what do I do? 

I have been asked some version of this question countless times over the years. A recent one was something like, “my brother is living in dad’s house, he says dad gave him everything, I don’t know if there is a will, what do I do?”  This can be a simple thing.

First step is always determining if there are assets. With real estate I start by looking up the deed to the house which I can do on my computer. We literally can check the name on just about any deed in California in about 25 seconds. This doesn’t answer the question of other assets but the house is usually a persons most valuable asset so let’s start there. Let’s do a title search to see whose name is on the deed to the house.

The second step is to determine if there is a will. This can be difficult but I have a way to find out!  First you or I will call the probate court and determine if a will has been lodged with the court.  By law a will should be lodged within 30 days but in my experience this is not always done. So seeing what is lodged is just a start. What else can you do?

In my opinion if brother won’t give you a copy of the alleged will one great way to get brother to produce a copy is to file for probate alleging there is no will. You are not lying because all you have is the word of a possibly lying brother who is happy living for free in dad’s house. His word is not worth much in my opinion.  If we file for probate we will put all interested parties, including bad brother, on notice of the probate. If he has a will I bet he will produce it!

 

If he doesn’t have a will, as I suspect he doesn’t, then we have you in the driver’s seat to be the administrator of the estate!  Yes, there could be a competing petition situation but that’s ok. The key is we got the ball rolling!  We will talk about competing petitions in another post!

All the best!

-John Palley

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